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How to draw horses and become an equine artist

Updated on January 23, 2009


As a child, I had always been enamored of horses and since I lived in a big city, the only way to make my dream of owning a horse come true was through drawing and painting horse portraits and hanging them on my walls. While, I never became a famous painter, I had a couple of exhibitions and my horse paintings were very popular.

No animal in my opinion, equals the perfect proportions, the majesty and the beauty of a horse. Whether you use pencil and paper, acrylic or tempera or oil on canvas, it takes some special skills to become an equine artist. There are special rules to abide to, and unlike drawing a tree where an artists has the freedom of deciding how tall, how big and how rich in foliage the tree can be, a horse portrait requires attention to detail.

A good way to start is to become familiar with the horse anatomy. The great Italian painter, Leonardo Da Vinci did profound studies on horses. He studied the muscles and bones and a lot of his beautiful studies are still available to view today. These studies are very helpful to aspiring equine artists and they were fundamental for Leonardo's career as a sculptor. Most were done with the use of red chalk.

 When I attended a nude art academy in Italy, I must admit I was a bit disappointed to learn that our first lessons consisted of tedious theoretical studies of the human bones and muscles. We had to draw bones and muscles for days. Never did I realize the big impact such studies had on our final portraits. Such muscle and bone studies ultimately allowed artists to unveil what hid under the skin, grasping a better understanding of the influence of such structures in their final piece of art.

Observing real life horses is a must. Not only can one capture the beauty, but an aspiring equine artist can also get accustomed with the various movements of the body and posture. Observant artists will also see how the light plays on the horse's skin creating various lights and shadows that may not be visible from a picture.

Drawing a horses' head may be somehow challenging. There are lots of hills and valleys created by bones, muscles and veins protruding. Capturing these lights and shadows will allow the artist to create life like portraits.

As a horse lover, I must say that the Arabian horse's facial features are one of the best to draw. The beauty of such pure blood horses has no equals. Their eyes are large and expressive and their head is slim with protruding veins and bony structures.       I used to love adding "life" to my horse's eyes but putting a small white dot right on the dark brown pupils.

Horses make great models and their beauty has fascinated many retro and modern artists throughout the years. As challenging as it may be to portray equines, one must admit that the results give satisfaction like no other, whether you draw to add a piece of art to your living room or simply dream of owning a horse just as I did as a child..


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